The last time around for this column, things really picked up in Final Fantasy IV. Betrayals, loss, sabotage, and other unpleasant events! It was nifty. For the audience, anyway. For Cecil, it’s kind of a pile of crap, as he’s lost literally everything yet again and now has no idea where in the hell he is. If you told him he had died and gone to hell, it would be pretty believable.
What little good news Cecil has at the moment (i.e. the fact that he’s not dead) is quickly undone once you realize where you are. Remember the very beginning of the game, when Cecil was returning from a successful campaign to steal the crystal from Mysidia? Yep. Here we are, back again. It’s not mentioned at any point if the people in Mysidia tend to hold grudges, but given that plenty of people will cast status spells on you and otherwise ruin poor solitary Cecil’s day, I’m going to go ahead and say that they do.
Tellah’s left the party, but in his place, we have Edward. You know, the character who has long been seen as so catastrophically useless that his very uselessness is seen as a punchline. In other words, the game continues to be Cecil and his Amazingly Unhelpful Companions, right down to the fact that Edward joins at a remarkably low level and is thus outpaced by a child in overall progression. Then again, it’s not like he was lining up for battle before his home was assaulted, so I suppose it’s not really his fault.
A bit of grinding is advisable, helped substantially by the fact that the ruins of the castle still contain HP and MP restoration springs for free. Despite that, the world map outside of the castle is home to enemies that shan’t help substantially; it’s better to try and get in a bit of level buffing via the Antlion’s Den. That means hopping on Edward’s complimentary royal hovercraft and taking a ride over rocks and shoals to the northeast. It’s a fairly short trip.
All right. So let’s go over this for just a minute. Assume you work as an innkeeper in a desert oasis town not too far from a major castle. One day, you see someone new strolling into town. Closer inspection reveals that he is a man in ominous black armor, carrying a young girl who has obviously been injured and weeping recently.
What I’m getting at here is that it’s a major miracle that the game’s lot didn’t end here, with Cecil being sent to every single possible jail. I mean, the explanation would just make it worse. “See, it’s because I killed her mom!”
Yes, after you’ve blown a village to hell, the only thing to really do is head for the nearest town in the hope that the girl you traumatized and almost killed isn’t actually dead. The innkeeper lets you take her to a bed to rest immediately, and said girl wakes up after about five seconds of bed rest. Despite Cecil’s eagerness, she’s a little reluctant to chat with him due to the whole dead mother thing, so Cecil also prepares to go to sleep. Until soldiers burst in, anyway.
There’s no game in the series that’s had a more tortured path coming over to non-Japanese markets than Final Fantasy III, but Final Fantasy IV certainly deserves a nod, especially as it’s the subject of a lot of rumors and aspersions that simply aren’t true. Everyone knows that it was released as Final Fantasy II originally, that the version released in the US was easier than the one released in Japan four months earlier, that a lot of it was censored… you get the idea. And, unfortunately, even with the ability to clear up a lot of misconceptions now, they persist just the same.
Let’s start at the beginning. Final Fantasy IV started development after Final Fantasy III‘s release simultaneously with Final Fantasy V… sort of. Square was working on two titles for the two Nintendo consoles: Final Fantasy IV for the Famicom, Final Fantasy V for the Super Famicom. Limitations of resources meant that the idea of another Famicom game was scrapped, and instead all of the resources were brought over to the retitled Final Fantasy IV. The Famicom game was apparently about 80% done and some elements were supposedly reused, but it’s never been stated what, exactly, got reused. (I have speculations, but that can come later.)
You know what I really wish the end of Final Fantasy III signified? That I could move off of my PSP. Sure, I love the system, but I’d really like to be playing these games in a format that allows for proper screenshots. Alas, the rules I’ve laid out keep me on this handheld through Final Fantasy IV and points related, not that things get much better once I move on to Final Fantasy V.
What it actually symbolizes, however, is that I’ve finished up the last game in the franchise that appeared on the NES, or the Famicom if you’d prefer. All three editions are remakes, yes, but the original games started life in the 8-bit era. It’s an interesting element that’s easy to overlook in favor of strict linear progression, but I think it has important implications and information about the franchise as a whole. Yes, in some ways the hardware was just that – hardware, the stuff powerful enough to run these games. But it also has implications for breaking up the flow of the series and how it’s evolved over time.